graculus: (coffee)
You'd be forgiven for thinking I didn't go on holiday this year, since I may have mentioned it in the run-up to actually going but then haven't posted anything about it over here - folks who follow me on Twitter will have seen some flailing about the trip, for reasons I'll detail in due course, but that's it.

A couple of years ago, I went to WorldCon in London (that's the World Science Fiction Convention, in case anyone reading this was unaware) and at the time there was a bid in to host a future WorldCon in Helsinki, Finland. In its lengthy history, the majority of WorldCons have been in the US and I was keen to support the idea of it being this side of the Atlantic again, so bought a supporting membership. The bid was successful and 2017 was therefore when it was due to happen - in 2014, it seemed like a long way away! Anyway, I felt I should support this plan in person and, if I was going to go to Finland, it seemed like a good idea to have other things to do...

Which is how I ended up with this year's holiday - first off, a week's hiking in a National Park near the Finnish-Russian before heading back to the Baltic, a few days in Turku (medieval capital of the country) and then back to Helsinki for the con and whatever else I felt like doing. That was also how I ended up getting up at 4am to drive to the airport to get a flight to Amsterdam, then to Helsinki and then another flight north, to Kuusamo. Or at least that was the plan, until Finnair overbooked my third flight and I got stuck in Helsinki for 18 hours.

I've travelled quite a bit and this is the first time that I've ever been caught by overbooking. I think I've been lucky in that I once got stuck in Paris on the way back from a trip to Canada, but that was because the flight in was delayed and I missed the connection, not the airline selling something it didn't actually have. What other business is allowed to work that way? The only positive thing I can say about Finnair was that as well as organising a hotel & meals, they gave me compensation there and then, while other airlines have a bad reputation for expecting you to claim later and then, oddly enough, taking forever to pay you back for what you've spent.

My main concern was that I was due to join a group and knew that they'd already left the Kuusamo area and travelled into the middle of nowhere, as well as being due to go bear-watching that afternoon and that was one of the main reasons why I'd chosen that particular trip! In the end, I spent the majority of my compensation on a very long taxi ride from the airport (200km, to be precise!) and arrived just in time to bolt down a cup of coffee, run to the loo and then go bear-watching. The bears were awesome and I'll post some pics at the weekend.

The rest of the week was spent hiking 10-15km a day, with our luggage being taken to the next place we were staying, then sauna and a swim in the lake if you felt so inclined (which I did, in two different lakes, while others in the group younger than me chickened out). I also had a go at canoeing for the first time - I've kayaked before, but this whole thing with one paddle and switching hands is far too much work! The only downsides to the trip were the mosquitoes, which loved me greatly despite bug spray, and that it was too early in the season for cloudberries by about a week! They were everywhere in the bogs we were crossing and I only found one that was ripe the entire trip. :(

Then it was a flight back to Helsinki and a train to Turku for a couple of days. It's a nice, compact little city and I liked it very much, though one of the main attractions was being able to go kayaking in the Baltic for the day. The trains in Finland are significantly cheaper than in the UK (though this isn't difficult) and I definitely recommend them.

Once back in Helsinki, we had a complementary travel card for the bus and tram system as part of being a WorldCon member and this got used a lot - I was staying in the city centre, near the train station, and could either get a commuter train (10 mins) or a tram (25-30 mins), usually depending on whether I could be bothered to walk to and from the respective train stations, since the trams were also frequent. I only managed to get a bit lost once, waiting for a bus that never arrived and then deciding to walk (and walk and walk) before spotting my hotel from a distance and navigating towards it by guesswork. That was also partly caused by my not trusting my instincts, as partway through this journey I'd got on a tram that was actually going the right way then second-guessed myself and got off a couple of stops later.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how easy Finland was for me as a vegetarian, though I think being a vegan might be significantly more difficult. Helsinki in particular seems to have embraced soy as an alternative to meat - the local burger chain, Hesburger, was doing soy burgers and tortillas, for example - while I ate a lot of potatoes and vegetables, it wasn't anything like as one-dimensional as my trip to Newfoundland a few years back where I pretty much lived on grilled cheese sandwiches for most of my time there.

Anyway, back to WorldCon. I think my main criticism would be about the panels, but that's probably because I've been spoiled by other conventions, NineWorlds in particular. The panels were short, scheduled for an hour but really limited to 45 minutes to allow for people to get to the next panel, which then turns into 30 minutes plus time for questions. There was a problem on the first day about getting in to some of the panels as well, with the convention having to organise some additional panel rooms for subsequent days, which meant that even then people were leaving panels early - I don't really see the point of going in the first place if you're going to do that. As a result, most of the panels I went to felt a bit lightweight and at least one suffered from a lack of robust moderation, or a moderator who wouldn't shut up and let the panellists talk. It was ever thus, I guess!

I knew a few people at the con but felt the lack of people to chew stuff over with, which I've become used to. Anyway, the next European WorldCon is going to be Dublin in 2019, so I guess I'm going to Ireland again in 2 years time! Hopefully more folks I know will go and help keep me entertained.

In general though, I'm glad I went and Finland is a very beautiful but expensive country. I ate a lot of chocolate and licorice, although the salty licorice they love so much (salmiakki) is vile and I don't know how anyone can eat more than one piece. I wish I'd been there for cloudberry season and also that the mosquitoes didn't love me so much. And yes, I did sauna naked - it's traditional, you know! - but put on a swimming costume for the lake because we weren't the only people there. I highly recommend the sauna + lake combination if you ever visit...
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We're almost at the stage of finalising my classes for September - it always seems a little odd to be thinking that I'll know my routine through to well past this time next year that far in advance, but it's the only way to do it, so there we are. From preliminary discussions, it's looking very much like a re-run of this year, two weekday mornings, two weekday afternoons and a Saturday morning class but less of them so I can enter some fencing competitions and have room to manoeuvre dates as required.

I'm starting to get disorganised in my head, because we're really on the home stretch now and I can almost taste the end of term. One more week and then it's half term and, at the moment, I don't have as many commitments in terms of invigilation as usual - I'm not quite so stretched for money and am teaching more hour, so I didn't offer as much availability as usual. At the moment I only have 3 exams for the actual half term week where previously I've worked all day pretty much every day, but I also have a bunch of stuff I need to get finished for my college course so there's plenty of reasons why I'm not so worried about that.

I also just picked up another, short-term, class through to mid-July but that's relatively stress-free as I've been given the okay to do without exams and it's easy for me to just re-use material I already have for a new audience. It's also extra money on top of my existing hours, so that's nice and will go a good way to paying for my expensive Finland trip. Of course, I made that trip (hello, WorldCon!) more expensive than it needed to be by adding on a hiking expedition beforehand and some time in Turku too, but I figure I may well never visit again so why not?

The only problem is that I also made the mistake of watching a documentary series about the Hebrides so now I want to go back and am wondering if I can squeeze a week in Scotland in there too before I start work again in September, though I may have to skip a potential competition to do it. I need to have a look at the dates and figure it out.
graculus: (Default)
Sorry, this blog is probably going to be quite fencing-heavy for a while now. *shrugs* For some reason I'm finding it hard to concentrate on books and nothing has really grabbed me, while other than the [community profile] picfor1000 challenge I've signed up for again, no writing is going on. I've started booking my trip to Finland this summer, so perhaps more on that later?

So, an update on the club competition - my team lost by one hit. I'd been told it was close but hadn't realised quite how close it was! I could have been sharing the very ugly team trophy this time around (and yes, it's really hideous, it's a glass thing of indeterminate shape rather than a proper cup or something) if not for that one hit.

The regional comp is now a week and a day from now and I've finally succeeded in my quest to get some of my fellow newbies to enter too. I'd been badgering them for weeks, as I didn't really want to go on my own (not that I wouldn't, but I'd rather have company!) and finally a combination of pleas and pestering has carried the day. So there's going to be 4 of us in all, maybe even 5 if someone else gets his arse in gear in time. \o/

Of course, since a foil competition is coming up soon, our coach decides that last night was an ideal time to start teaching us epee instead. Which is basically 'where would you like to stab your opponent today and it's okay if he stabs you at the same time, it totally still counts'. None of this ridiculous right-of-way and who attacked first business, so much easier to referee in that you just see whose light goes on. I'd been thinking about doing epee some time this year anyway, since there seem to be a lot more competitions, but I wasn't really thinking quite yet!

Anyway, more news after the competition next weekend. ;)

As mentioned above, I've also started booking stuff for my trip to Finland in the summer. As well as going to Helsinki for WorldCon, I've booked a hiking trip beforehand (including bear watching) and then a few days in Turku as well. So far I've booked internal flights and my Turku and Helsinki hotels, so just the main flight and Turku-Helsinki train to go. Though at the moment July seems a long way away and I'm currently trying to decide if I want to go anywhere before then, even if just for a few days.
graculus: (Default)
*sung to the tune of 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco*

Yes, I have returned and (in the time-honoured philosophy of going on holiday after a hectic period of work) managed to get sick while I was on Mull. Which wasn't too bad for the first couple of days but then I probably TMI )

As expected, the weather ranged from absolutely baking through rain and midge swarms to 'a combination of all of the preceding' but at least I got to do most of what I wanted to do regardless. I'd organised to go on a trip out specifically looking for otters and spent about 5 hours watching said critters quite close to where I was camping. I'd already seen one by pure chance earlier in the week, but only for about a minute, whereas this was the real thing. Fortunately, at this stage I wasn't coughing too badly. Said critters were too far away for my camera to get a good shot but here's one of them from the people I went with:

I also got to go and visit the puffins on the Treshnish Islands where, as the guy running the boat trip says, they've been involved in studying Homo Sapiens for quite some time. You can literally sit and they'll land or waddle around within a couple of feed of you, which makes (hopefully!) for some great pics when I get through all of them. Pic spam to follow...

So, in short, good holiday which probably would have been much improved by my not being ill, also more consistent weather (but hey, it's Scotland so that's a bit much to ask). Also, I like the countryside but this has reminded me why I also like wi-fi and 24-hour supermarkets. ;)

E.T.A. Can't believe I forgot to mention one of the other highlights of the trip, namely being in a tent in the middle of a massive thunderstorm. We'd already watched the first part of the storm roll over and lightning strikes on the coast opposite, only for the next bit to be literally overhead. It was like being inside a drum, with massive flashes of light pretty much constantly - awesome!
graculus: (Default)
Finished everything in terms of work on Friday, now to get off on holiday. Tomorrow I'm off to the Scottish island of Mull for about 10 days, though given the weather forecast it's quite possible I may decide to come home before then, as I'm camping and the forecast is Not Great. Still, as long as I have coffee and books, I shall struggle on heroically and see how it goes!

I've got a couple of trips planned, but didn't want to over-organise myself and I'm also hoping to use my newly-refreshed navigation skills at some point - I've actually used them already, since I went out to the Peak District and got slightly turned around so then had to use map & compass to re-orientate myself. For map nerds like myself, discovering WH Smith were doing a sale on Ordnance Survey maps was just too much to resist, so I now find myself the proud owner of maps covering the entire Peak District National Park and also Mull (for obvious reasons).

Today is packing day as I'm leaving early tomorrow and driving up to Scotland, though I also need to go and see Ghostbusters this morning and drop the lone ferret off at the local pet place - they're looking after him and the woman who helps run it is so excited about having him. She has ferrets herself but this is the first one they've had to board, after a false alarm a few months back when someone called about boarding a parrot and she misheard them. It's literally over the road from the local vet, so if old and cranky turns into old and sick, he's as close as possible. All my washing is done and I want to pack the car tonight, though I'm still wondering if I've chosen enough books for if I do get stuck on a waterlogged island! ;)

Photo spam on my return, assuming that I didn't spend the majority of my trip underwater! :P
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Nearly at the end of term, thank heavens.

First off, the student teacher did not come back. I'm hoping it's been suggested to her that perhaps teaching is not really her thing and she ought to consider something else, but I have no idea if that's the case or not. I'm currently in the middle of organising and managing exams, not to mention encouraging folks to sign up for classes in September (with 4 of my students joining one of my classes already, which means I'm 25% full on that class with people where I already know what they can and can't do, which makes my life much easier).

I've also managed to snag a few more hours from September of what was going spare, though I didn't want to take on too much and also wanted to keep a day off in the week if I could - in order to manage both of those aims, I've agreed to teach a Saturday morning class, but at a higher level than I've taught before so that's going to be interesting. It's very grammar-heavy at that level, which is no issue for me, except making sure that I know how to explain the rules (which I've discovered is quite a different thing from knowing if something is right or not when I read it). Teaching on a Saturday means that I will now have Thursdays off completely and also no teaching commitments on Mondays before I head off late afternoon to college for a few hours each week.

I realised a few weeks back that if I didn't get a wiggle on, I wasn't going to actually have a holiday this year (since going to Nine Worlds doesn't really count, even if I sneak off to a museum or two instead of going to panels now I'm going to be in central London) so I've been organising to go to Mull for 10 days before the schools all break up. I'm also going to be camping, though camping when you have a car is a little less Spartan since you don't have to carry everything with you wherever you go. I've booked a couple of trips when I'm there, but tried not to organise myself too much just in case - my main plan is books, coffee and beer, and wandering about. It's prime otter territory, apparently, but that's what they said about Skye too and I never saw any otters there!

I also recently took a refresher navigation course, since I live very close to the Peak District National Park but haven't really explored it properly. I'd done map and compass navigation many years ago but had forgotten most of it, so I went off the other Saturday and spent the day re-learning how to do stuff and also would like to get back and do more later on in the year - the same guy does navigation in poor visibility training, which could be very useful in the coming dystopia. ;)

You may notice I have not, to this point, mentioned the referendum. I'm really not sure what there is to say about it, other than that one side was vigorously campaigning on what's turned out (to the surprise of nobody on this side of the situation) to be a tissue of lies and half-truths at best. It's also validated the views of a small bunch of horrible people who now think that the majority agrees with them about 'foreigners' and people who are British but not White, making them feel bolder about being arseholes in public. The folks who 'won' clearly didn't expect to, because they had no plans on what should happen next, so we're stuck in a bit of a limbo at the moment while political power games carry on and everyone on both sides of the House try and jockey for position.

It's all a bit pathetic but also quite worrying because nobody really knows what's going to happen - the referendum was, after all, advisory (another thing that seems to have been glossed over by and to the folks who want to leave the EU) so could be ignored by government if they want to do so, though that would probably require significantly more backbone than most politicians possess when faced with unpopularity. Whether or not I'll have folks to teach in the longer term is another matter, but for now nothing has immediately changed, so we'll have to see just how deep we're all in the shitter.
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I managed to lose my house keys yesterday so had to call a locksmith, which I don't recommend not because said locksmith wasn't a really nice guy (he was) but because it cost a load of money. Since he couldn't pick the lock, he had to drill it out and replace it. And I'd just picked up my car from its MOT and was rejoicing over the fact that it had passed without needing anything done to it. Knowing how my income works, all I could think was 'well, that's x hours teaching'. :(

I'm very much enjoying working part-time but the drop in overall income is not so enjoyable - I used to travel a lot more, but now what with teaching in term time and the money thing that hasn't really happened. However, we have a couple of people retiring in July so their hours should soon be up for grabs. We run a load of ESOL courses every week (weekday mornings, afternoons, late afternoons, most evenings and even Saturday mornings) at various levels and in four different centres so I'm really glad I'm not the one who has to timetable it all!

I'm trying to get out more on my day off and also really want to have a proper holiday at the end of our year (the week before the schools break up), to the point where I've been offered the possibility of more work by the university but they want me to do more training and I'm probably going to blow that off in favour of going to Scotland for a week. Going to conventions is nice but it's not really a holiday, you know?

I also got invited to stay behind this week at fencing and train with the rest of the adults for the first time, so I must be making progress; that means I got out of warming up again, as I was still very much warmed up from my lesson! At the moment, there are only two women turning up regularly (both of us relative beginners), so that means I got to fence a couple of teenage boys this week in addition to my fellow learners - I don't mind losing, though it's frustrating, as long as I've given it a good shot and hopefully taken at least one point off them. I'm now about halfway through my first set of lessons so I can definitely see myself carrying on past that, though I plan to delay buying any equipment for as long as humanly possible.
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Oops, how has it been a month since I last posted? Anyway, last time, I was making plans to go down to London and then do some work, first for the university and then getting back to teaching again.

I highly recommend the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum, in case anyone here has the chance to go and hasn't yet - all sorts of cool stuff from the history of Russian space exploration, though the gift shop was shockingly lacking in cool stuff I wanted to buy (except for all the posters, where I could have pretty much cleared the wall if I'd let myself). What I wanted, more than anything, was a mug with the Valentina Tereshkova poster artwork on it, but nope.

Since I've been back, I did a week at the university and then started shadowing the folks who're currently teaching the course where I'm taking over the ESOL part when it runs again from after half term. Getting the other tutors together to review this (since it was a pilot) was a nightmare though, since there are 4 of them and nobody could do the same times as everyone else, so we've ended up having two meetings to cover that. I suppose I should probably be grateful we've managed it with only two!

Meanwhile, I've also picked up another course to teach, starting the same time, which is excellent news in financial terms. I'd like to say I've been prepping stuff for both of them, but that'd be a lie, though I have been organising what I already have so I can actually find what I'm looking for. And I also got given a load of stuff by one of the tutors who retired, so I have no shortage of possible material, only needing the time and concentration to look through it and see what's still useful.

I also did a solid week's worth of invigilation in January, so I'm looking forward to getting paid for that this month. In related news, I was in the supermarket and bumped into the woman who organises the medical school exams, only for me to completely blank on where I knew her from (since it was utterly out of context) and have to blag that I remembered when I didn't. *headdesk*

Meanwhile, in terms of health and welfare news, I signed up for something last year through my local council which offered free gym and classes for a year if you met certain criteria (which I did) and am trying to improve my overall fitness. Not quite a New Year resolution, since it started in November! I think I'd got to that point where anything like fatigue was a toss-up between 'am I ill?', 'am I just getting older?' or 'is it just that I'm not very fit any more?' (like the question about whether there was something going on with my thyroid function, which came back as not proven) and decided the best way to sort out between the two was to remove one of them as a possible factor. Sadly, it wasn't 'am I just getting older?', which nobody can do anything about! ;)

Anyway, I've been going to the gym although I find the cardio aspect of it incredibly tedious, and also trying out Pilates, which can best be summarised as 'I was never very coordinated when I was younger and that has not improved'. This week I was also persuaded to attend a circuit class, which would have been fine if I hadn't been the only person to turn up - free personal training is not fun, my thighs can tell you all about it two days later!

Longer term, I'd also like to get back into some kind of regular sport and am currently looking at what's feasible for me considering age and attention span. I played hockey (field hockey to the folks across the water) for more than 10 years but don't really fancy getting back into that again, even though there are 'veterans' teams. One thing I've been looking at is fencing, since there's a local club that does adult lessons quite reasonably priced and it's something I've always wanted to try. But improving my basic fitness comes first, I'll make some enquiries after Easter about that and see where things go from there...
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Final reminder for London-based or London-adjacent folks that I'm off to that London tomorrow for a couple of days and you are welcome to join me/meet up for dinner and/or mooching around various museums with myself and other folks who've already indicated they can get with the program!

Please message me if you want to know the finer points of our agenda, though it roughly looks like this:

Wednesday - Black Georgians exhibition in Brixton, pumpkin curry

Thursday - Cosmonauts exhibition etc. at Science Museum, Tintin exhibition at Somerset House, also food

Friday - Celts exhibition at the British Museum, also food
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I can't believe it's December 6th already, what the hell?

Anyway, I've started organising myself for going down to London in January, since otherwise it's not going to happen - the hotel is booked (with a 24-hour cancellation policy, since knowing my luck it'll be snowpocalypse that week and I won't be able to travel), as is my rail ticket. So, I'll be in London from the afternoon of Wednesday 6th through to Saturday 9th January.

At the moment my itinerary is looking roughly like this, so if anyone wants to tag along or meet for dinner, please let me know:

Wednesday - Black Georgians exhibition in Brixton, then as much pumpkin curry as I can inhale without exploding.
Thursday - Cosmonauts exhibition etc. at Science Museum, later off to Tintin exhibition at Somerset House (which is open till 9pm, apparently)
Friday - Celts exhibition at the British Museum
Saturday - run away back to the Midlands
graculus: (the cleaners are not happy)
So, because I am dumb and didn't realise that the con actually starts bright and early on Thursday (tomorrow! eep!), my train doesn't get into London till about 3pm. Which means, by the time I have schlepped across to my hotel (Travelodge London City Airport, in case anyone was wondering) and then back to ExCel to register, I'm aiming for 6pm as a reasonable time to actually make it to a panel.

It's far too boring to list all the panels I'm looking at, but if anyone fancies getting dinner one evening, this is where I'm likely to be of an evening-meal-eating time:

Thursday - Capital Suite 9 from 8pm (two panels in the same room from 6pm!)

Friday - Capital Suite 7 from 9pm (after the 'Beyond Bechdel' panel, which I am determined to attend...)

Saturday - Capital Suite 14 from 8pm

Sunday - looking tricky at the moment as I currently have panels from 12 noon right through to 8pm when the Hugo Awards start. Clearly something will have to give!

Monday - Second Stage at 1.30pm. Maybe Monday is a good day for fannish get-togethers, if we haven't managed it already?

And on Tuesday I'm planning to go to Greenwich, for both the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum, with a side-trip to the church I included in one of my stories to check out some details on it and a visit to Mamuska for some lovely Polish nosh. Anyone wanting to tag along to any of this, please let me know!
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In work-related stuff, I am giving in my notice tomorrow. Technically I only have to give a week, but because I am not that much of an arsehole, I am giving them notice that I will be leaving in mid-September when the course I am teaching on finishes. So that's about 8 weeks' notice so they can try and get their disorganised selves in order and hire a replacement if they want.

My current employers are shockingly disorganised, to say the least. I mean, what kind of training company runs out of paper for the photocopier, not once but twice in 2 months? We've already all been called in to be informed that the manager is leaving, with no job to go to, which we think is financially-driven. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the company goes belly-up in the near future, so I feel like it's a good thing I won't (hopefully, though there's still time, I guess!) be around to see it!

Yep, I got the job I was interviewing for, with the folks with whom I used to volunteer, so it's all good. They have already started emailing me with offers of training though I haven't even signed a contract yet.

In other news, I am also going to be starting a college course in September, which is specifically designed for folks teaching ESOL. It's 4 hours a week minimum, so some more flexibility about working hours is going to be a good thing all round.

And last, but by no means least, it's almost WorldCon! \o/ Got a little space round the con itself to try and get some touristy stuff done too - the new galleries are going to be open in the Imperial War Museum and I've never been to either Greenwich or the Museum of London, so I have a few ideas on how to fill my time, not to mention a couple of restaurants I want to check out. Any London peeps/fellow Worldcon visitors want to play tourist too sometime, or just meet for dinner?
graculus: (sarcasm)
*points to title of this post* Though I'm not certain it's really a Bank Holiday as the sun is shining...

Been back just over a week from my trip to the Outer Hebrides but still haven't quite got my bearings yet or indeed unpacked completely. It was an odd trip, mostly because I'm not that used to staying in B&B - hotels have been much more my thing and it's quite a different approach, particularly for the anti-social amongst us (me, in other words). The only downside about travelling on your own - which is otherwise great, because you get to do exactly what you like, no need for negotiation or compromise - is that you get to listen to the inanity of other people without any kind of buffer.

The Hebrides themselves are extremely beautiful. I have hundreds of pics I need to sort through and that was despite the fact there were a couple of days where the weather limited what I could do. The way of life is like stepping back in time - the resident population of the entire archipelago is only about 28,000 and even when you add tourists (considering I was there at the start of their tourist season) it's never going to be that busy. Most of the time, wherever I was, I had the place to myself. The top half of the islands, everything is closed on Sundays and even outside there, most shops close at 6 and restaurants don't serve food after 9.

There were lots of people cycling the islands (which seemed like quite a masochistic pursuit to me - they're not that hilly, but the weather is very changeable and the wind can be evil) - not to mention the hordes of folks with campervans. This is a place where the majority of the roads are single track with passing places, which takes a little getting used to, as does the cavalier attitude of the livestock to the concept of vehicles. I'm used to sheep, though the Hebrides sheep are much more cocky than any I've encountered before - I'd been told that sometimes you have to 'nudge' them with the car to get them to move, but fortunately I didn't meet any that were quite that recalcitrant - and then there's the Vatersay cows. Yes, the cows on that particular island are notorious for their liking to lie down in the road, not to mention apparently making a special detour to it when it comes time to defecate, since there seemed to be more cowpats on the road than in the surrounding fields.

I'd hoped to get the chance to do some kayaking while I was up there, but sadly it was a little too early in the season, so if there's anything that gets me back there then it'll probably be that as much as anything else. That and just how relaxed the place is, if you get into the swing of things there, not to mention the fact that while it's supposed to be one of the best places in the UK to see otters I didn't manage to spot a single one. :(

In other news, before I went away I've been doing some work on the house and garden, discovering yet more joys of BIY (bodge it yourself) from the previous owner. This is a guy who thought it was a really good idea to just plaster in water pipes running along an outside wall without insulating them first, so that when the inevitable burst pipe happened one winter I ended up with a massive mess before I could get the burst fixed. Those pipes have now been boxed in instead, in case of future calamity.

He'd also built a raised bed in the garden which was falling apart, so this year I decided to pull it to bits and replace it. Digging down, I discovered that he had pulled up a bunch of paving slabs underneath it (fair enough) but had then just thrown the resulting rubble into the raised bed with the earth. I now have a nice pile of broken slabs to dispose of, but I do have a proper raised bed in which I am attempting to grow vegetables. At present, pumpkins (which are finally coming up even though I planted them before I left for Scotland, delayed by the poor weather), garlic and beans.

I had all sorts of plans for catching up with various shows and writing too while I was away, none of which really amounted to anything, though I did read a lot of fic. When it came to updating the recs pages on my website, I discovered all sorts of issues with them which led to a complete overhaul and this led to a general sort-out over there. All sorts of things were on AO3 that weren't on my site and vice versa, though the latter is mostly stuff I can't quite bring myself to re-read (SG-1 fic, I know your ears are burning...) and I'm not sure if it should be more widely shared. Or if there are even still people reading that fandom, fcol. ;)

Also I have written a thing, (a Magnificent 7 fic) which makes me hope that I can continue to make some progress on the other stuff I need to finish.

Okay, I think that's sufficient rambling for now...
graculus: (Snape)
Yes, we're nearly at the end, just one more post to go!

Read more... )
graculus: (Snape)
Apologies for the delay, wasn't online last weekend as much as I'd hoped due to router problems... so, without any further ado, here's the elephant pics I promised (and a few more!).

Read more... )
graculus: (sarcasm)
Next stop: Kandy, which is a nice little city with a lake right in the middle of it - another option for capital city, the last before the current one (Colombo) took over. It's a real mixture of all sorts of influences, with a lively shopping district right in the middle including one shop that only sells umbrellas.

Click here for pics )

In our next installment, I promise lots of pics of elephants...
graculus: (flawless)
Next it was off into the countryside for what I now know would be an ill-fated bike ride, then off to Polonnoruwa for more slightly-damp sightseeing...

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graculus: (Snape)
So, as promised here they are - it was a bit of a whistle-stop tour of Sri Lanka and has given me a good idea of where I might want to go back to (nature reserves, for starters) and where I'd avoid like the proverbial plague (beach resorts, which came as no surprise...).

Click here for pics and prevarication )
graculus: (Snape)
At some point, I promise to do proper posts about my trip to Sri Lanka (with pics and everything), but somehow I can't quite seem to get into the right mindset - I think if I hadn't come back with this sprain, it might have happened when I got back but I still have 250 or so pics to sort through before I can do it any justice.

It was a good introduction to the island, though perhaps not as restful as I could have done with as we didn't stay in many places more than one night, except for Kandy and the coast, the latter being a beach resort that really didn't do it for me. At least if I go back, I know where I'll want to spend more time. It also didn't help that it was unseasonably wet, making even our guide wonder what was going on. On the plus side, I easily ate my body weight in both extremely good curry (to the point where I've actually bought a cookbook in the hope of replicating some of them) and fresh fruit.

Unfortunately, it looks as though my well-travelled point-and-shoot camera is on its last legs as it's sucking down batteries like there's no tomorrow. The pictures are still pretty good but not good enough to compensate for the battery thing, though I wouldn't be surprised if it's 9 or 10 years old so I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. I'm currently trying to decide whether to replace it with something similar or buy myself a DSLR instead, with all the potential for obsessive behaviour that implies...

In other news, I'm back at work now and waiting on a physio appointment for my wrist. It's significantly better than it was but still not great, particularly when it comes to driving, which is very much part of the job.

And I'm thinking about my next holiday, which should come as no surprise to anyone... ;)
graculus: (Snape)
Yes, I'm back but have sprained my wrist quite badly while away so typing currently v. painful, as is changing gear while driving so it's a good thing I'm off work for another week. Proper update later in the week I hope!

How are you folks? ;)

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